by Jeffrey Canton
Winner of the American Library Association's prestigious Newbury Award for 2003, Avi's Crispin is a gripping tale of adventure set during the Middle Ages. Following the death of his mother, thirteen-year-old Crispin, called Asta's Son for most of his life, finds his world turned totally upside-down. Always outsiders in the little village of Stromford, England, without the protection of his mother, Crispin is suddenly and unjustly accused of stealing from the steward of the manor, John Aycliffe, and is declared a "wolf's head" which means that anyone may kill the boy on sight for a reward. Crispin has no idea why Aycliffe hates him enough to destroy his life. Aided by the kindly village priest, he flees from the only world he has ever known into a 14th century England still devastated by the ravages of plague and just barely holding itself intact despite the injustices of the brutal feudal system. When Crispin encounters an itinerant juggler, Bear, he finds himself just as suddenly swept into the midst of a totally different worldła world of clever songs, engaging sleight of hand tricks and endless laughter. But this world too is on the verge of exploding from the tyranny of feudalism and equally primed for Crispin's destruction. Avi has woven together an intricate and intriguing adventure story about a boy who is on a journey of discovery, and who finds he's not just an insignificant peasant but a human being with the power to make a help himself and others. This is a rich and vibrant portrait of 14th century England, a deservedly award-winning novel that is sure to engage demanding young readers.